The American West (TV Mini-Series 2016– ) Poster

(2016– )

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Historically inaccurate to the point of being Appalling.
CinemaZealot5727 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
There are spoilers in this review if you haven't watched the latest episode. This review primarily concerns the next to the last episode, "Frontier Justice". Redford IS rewriting history. I don't really think he's doing it with a revisionist attitude but I just can't figure out his motivation. Between him, all his money and no telling how many researchers and interns that had to be working on this I have no doubt they could have made this show entertaining and historically accurate. In other reviews I saw mention of many mistakes. Things like using the pictures from other shootouts for the wrong event/locale. In this last show I watched it shows Earp investigating the wagon train robbery and murder of one or two teamsters. Earp picks up a double barrel shotgun, breaks it open and says, "he didn't even have time to get a shot off'. Really? What I saw was a shotgun breech showing a 12 gauge shell in place with the primer dimpled. Anyone who knows guns knows dimpled primers means the shot was fired (or rarely a misfire). What ever it was it was ridiculous. The trivia section on this episode mentions the very same thing. And would someone please explain the Earp/Clanton $3600 deal to me??? I've never heard of that in my life. Even if it were true it's no different than using any other informant. The stuff they showed about the arrest of Billy the Kid was so wrong it was embarrassing. Everything I've ever heard and read about that escape said that Billy the Kid shot the deputy with the shotgun as the deputy was returning to the jail. Billy shot him from the upper window of the jail. When Billy got killed they got that all wrong too. A lot of the info on Jesse James is not accurate or true. The info on Sitting Bull is very sketchy. The way they portrayed the killing of Crazy Horse WAS a PC Retell. Everything I've ever read said that Indian Security at the Fort killed Crazy Horse. Redford obviously THINKS otherwise. To bad he can't stick to history. I know that all the people that have been involved in this show are aware of these stupid mistakes. So the question is why? Why would they spend all that money to put out a half ass effort that is historically so inaccurate it is laughable? There is a lot more that is wrong with this show. And that really points out the fact that there was enough money and experience involved here that they could have easily made this show a premier example of historically accurate Western documentaries.
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Entertaining but Bad History
thirdsqurl26 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I'm watching tonight's episode of the American West TV series Blood & Gold on AMC, and though it's entertaining, it's proving to be bad history.

The murder of Pinkerton agent Joseph Whicher (supposedly by Jesse James) was 1874, not 1876. Jesse James and his gang were not patriots continuing the fight for the Southern Cause, they were bank robbers who kept the money they stole. Pinkerton agents threw a smoke bomb into the James family house that unexpectedly exploded (possibly in the fireplace), not a fire bomb as the show asserts, and the house was damaged, not burned to the ground. President Grant's efforts to buy the Black Hill was 1875, not 1876. President's Grant's order to the Sioux to report to reservations was 1875, not 1876. Sitting Bull gathered about 2500 warriors in the spring of 1876, not 4000. The "tribe" of Arapahos at the Little Big Horn were five hunters previously held prisoner by the Sioux (Waterman, Sage, Left Hand, Yellow Eagle, and Little Bird). George Custer was not removed from 7th Cavalry command because he led the Black Hills Expedition of 1875, he was removed for calling President Grant's brother Orville Grant a crook. Custer's so-called presidential ambitions in 1876 are an old canard that has been disproved over and over again. The program even quotes historian Paul Hutton supporting this lie, when in fact Hutton has explicitly rejected it. The show's editors deliberately re-cut Hutton's interview to provide a false narrative. Custer did not "lead" one of three cavalry columns into Montana, General Alfred Terry was in command and Custer was his subordinate. It was not Custer's order to move out against the Sioux on June 22nd, it was General Terry's order, and they didn't know the Native tribes were on the Little Big Horn until days later. Custer took 650 men with him, not "less than 500." These are only a few errors, there are lots more, major and minor.

This program has good production values and some nice imagery. The narration is done well. However, its unfortunate that the people watching this program are being exposed to so much disinformation.
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Makes Butch and Sundance look like a documentary
jjcarr-4901530 August 2017
This review is based on the version shown in Europe under the title "Robert Redford's The West". I'm not aware of any differences apart from the title and I'd be surprised if there were given the skimpy production values of the series. The series of eight one-hour shows sets out to tell the tale of the West through six lives Custer, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, Jesse James, Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp. We get a narrative over reenactments interspersed with to-camera pieces from lots of actors who appeared in Westerns and some actual historians. I found the series very disappointing. The recreation of the Little Big Horn would embarrass a troop of amateur re-enactors. More substantial is the myriad inaccuracies and omissions. In telling the tale of the James brothers I don't recall a mention of the Younger Brothers. We're shown a map of the Battle of the Little Big Horn that shows Reno's and Custer's advances but doesn't show Benteen's nor is he mentioned in the narrative. Billy the Kid's escape all happens on the ground floor. There's no Pete Maxwell in Pete Maxwell's bedroom when Billy is shot. The viewer is given no context as to why either man was in the room (the link being Maxwell). As presented Morgan and Virgil Earp are shot on the same night. Others more knowledgeably than myself have and could point out many more flaws in the series. Did I learn anything? Yes. A young John Wayne met an elderly Wyatt Earp.
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Are all these reviews accurate?
Jim Tritten12 August 2016
I have to admit, when I watched this series, I was jarred by some of the inaccuracies I could see without being a specialist in the West. The costumer cut corners and used the same uniform for Custer over the entire series. Yes, he was a general at one point. But this rank ended after he was mustered out of the volunteers. When he came back into the regular Army is was as a Lieutenant Colonel. During this time, the time with the 7th Cavalry, he would not have worn a general officer's rank on his shoulders. The costumer obviously either was told to save money or paid insufficient attention to detail. Viewers will likely never find out. Then too there is the detail of John Tunstall being portrayed as an American when he was British by birth and presumably by speech. So when I read all of the other historical inaccuracies listed in these reviews, I wonder what else was wrong and if so much was wrong, then what was the point of The American West. Clearly not historical accuracy. In fairness, I did learn some new facts, only to have them disputed on these pages. With so much doubt cast about the facts, the viewer can only speculate about the slant and underlying purpose of The American West. When they could have known better, why did they produce something that is fraught with controversy? Good entertainment, but incorrectly classified if The American West is labeled as a documentary.
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Seriously flawed, inaccurate, shallow, and cheaply made
WildBullWriter12 March 2018
It's hard to believe Robert Redford released this piece of garbage on the world. I'd thought more highly of him (until now).

The series is cheaply made, recycling the same footage over and over and over again. The continuity is lousy. So is the dialogue. The narration is trivial and repetitive. The clichés are endless, the scripting shallow. Many of the "facts" are non-factual (inaccuracies abound, as other reviewers point out). So it's historically suspect. All in all, the storytelling is at the level of an adolescent comic book.

In the end, this mini-series offers up the same shallow romantic crap about the West that's been around for decades. And it's badly made. Very disappointing. Sorry to say it, but Redford's judgment must be gone to put put his name on this work.

If you want to learn about the American West between 1865-1890, find something else. Or just watch a western movie; at least you'll be entertained.
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The American West Fantasy
aa568 October 2017
I came across this dreck on SBS in Australia, and I stopped watching halfway through the first episode because of its historical fantasies. Like other reviewers, I'm staggered by what Redford's motivation was. Is he really that ignorant or does he enjoy portraying history the way he wants it to have occurred? I sincerely hope the Aussies don't believe this is the way the American West was.
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The American Waste
tbetts2620 July 2016
Sorry I love these documentaries on the West but this one has to be one of the worst. It's full of inaccuracies, mistakes and much left out of each character's story. The bouncing back to characters is irritating to say the least so most continuity is lost.

When you never show Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson or any of the other Earp brothers when talking about his time in Dodge City you've lost a lot of the story of Wyatt Earp. No mention of his wife Matty or the rest of the family.

Once scene in episode 6 shows Brisco County and Bowler from the Adventures of Brisco County Jr. riding into town. Now how can you take a documentary seriously after that. Robert Redford should be ashamed of such a poor production.
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Ambitious failure
drjgardner24 July 2016
For me and for most Americans there is nothing more interesting than the story of the West. From the Civil War until World War 1, the West was full of adventure, opportunity, drama and tragedy. AMCs series "Hell on Wheels" was an excellent attempt to portray one aspect of this period, the building of the railroads. But their far more ambitious "The American West" is a big disappointment on a number of levels.

For a documentary, the use of "expert" opinion from movie stars is hardly a good idea. Have we stooped so low that we get our history from movie stars?

Perhaps the reliance on movie stars for the primary documentation is one of the reasons this 8 part series has so many errors (e.g., Jesse James and Billy the Kid met, Wyatt Earp went to Tombstone to be their Sheriff).

Another weakness of the series is that there is no real underlying theme. There are brief episodes about Jesse James (Missouri), Billy the Kid (New Mexico), Wyatt Earp (Kansa and Arizona), and Custer and Sitting Bull (the Dakotas). But there is no real glue that holds the episodes together (e.g., the demands of capitalism to obtain natural resources, the political post war climate, the economic problems and the challenges of currency, etc.)

Telling the story of the West is an important project, but this series fails to do it in a meaningful way. FWIW - I really like the TV series "Centennial" (1978-79) and "Hell on Wheels" (2011-16). They both gave a comprehensive history of the West and did so in a more entertaining manner. For sheer pleasure, "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973) is my favorite telling of this story.
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Terrible series
ghatbkk23 February 2018
Poorly researched, poorly presented, inaccurate and basically nonsense. It's just garbage.
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Inaccurate, Poorly Written, Poorly Researched, Derivative.
YeagerVision25 July 2016
If you're going to make a documentary series about the same old people as every other documentary series, at least be accurate. Find something new. Offer perspective. Reveal details and nuance which make the information fresh.

This series does none of it. It's dull, boring, trite and poorly produced at all levels.

After an interesting series like "Hell on Wheels", AMC embarrassed itself by running this waste of time. The director, producers and writers should be ashamed of themselves for the shoddy, lazy product they put together.
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Embarrassing not for me but for all involved.
stuntsivt31 July 2016
Well what can I say , the budget went totally on the stars who read a script about the history. The remake footage is terrible , not accurate to the time. Colonel Custer looks like Joe Dirt. Come on stop wasting my time and your money. I am sure every historian and actor that has been involved with this project still hasn't watched it , The subject matter and the whole idea could have been brilliant but alas it fails in every way. Costume mistakes and mowed grass outside a Cavalry fort, Black men playing Indians and ladies riding horses as cavalry soldiers. Lets stop trying to remake action footage with weekend warriors and get some professionals in on the project. The only good thing about the series is I watched two episodes and it made me laugh until I cried. I am sure the was not intended.
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Like clearing up after a hurricane, where to start?
bob-113519 August 2017
Any series that tries to paint a psychotic murdering thug like Jesse James as something of a nice guy, just isn't going to work. It tries to excuse him by saying the war changed him, no he was a terrorist during the war, not having the courage to put on a uniform he joined a group of murderous thugs who shot down unarmed Union Soldiers.(Centralia) The whole series is full of such appalling inaccuracies it is difficult to pick just a couple. Start with the firearms, all totally wrong. When you know that certain people used certain weapons why give them anything else? Billy the Kid's enemies were called The House? No they were the Santa Fe Ring whose store and headquarters was called the house. As for all the other parts of Billy's story surely the end of him was the worst. We know what happened, why completely invent this final shooting? No mention of the other major players such as McSween etc. As for Wyatt Earp whole swathes have been omitted. His problems with John Behan for example, the fact that he was married and having an affair with Mattie, but worst of all having Virgil and Morgan shot on the same night. And what about Bat Masterson and his brother Ed? Leaving them out of the story is rather like leaving the whale out of Moby Dick. A appalling mess all round and something to be ashamed of.
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Neither entertaining, nor accurate.
john-m-madsen4 July 2018
To be fair, I only watched half an episode of the first episode and bits of pieces of a few others. That was more than sufficient to ascertain that this drivel was never meant to be a serious show, or to teach anybody anything at all. Rather it appears to be designed as light entertainment and to perpetuate inaccuracies and tired old myths of the Old West.

Shoddy, clumsy, lightweight and not even a great deal of entertainment value to speak of. Two stars is ample reward.
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Fun to watch - Not very historically accurate
tmdarby18 July 2016
I don't usually judge these historically based old west shows until they get to the Lincoln County War. I'm not a historical expert by any means, but I have read and seen just about everything there is on the Lincoln County War. It's a bit of an obsession of mine.

I really like this mini-series, but was very disappointed in the historical accuracy of it. I could go into a lot of detail about it but I'll just mention a few things.

They presented John Tunstall as if he were some older ranch man. Tunstall died at the age of 24 and was British. Not showing that kind of surprised me because it left out a major point of the story. The house was more or less run by Murphy and Dolan (who they never even mentioned for some reason), and they were Irish. So there was a great deal of tension between the two sides just because one was Irish and one was British.

Also, there is literally more evidence that the Loch Ness Monster exists than there is that Billy the Kid met with Jesse James. Yet this show presents it as if it were fact.

Also the depiction of the Big Killing was very disappointing. It seems to me they tried to make it more like Young Guns rather than trying to make it historically accurate. The didn't show the house being put ablaze, and they made it look like it took place in an afternoon when in reality it spanned over 4 days and Billy and a few others escaped at night.

I also don't know how you talk about Earp and Dodge City and leave out Bat Masterson. Small detail, but I also noticed that when they were talking about Las Vegas, New Mexico they shoved a photo of the dead Dalton Gang from Coffeyville in there, like it happened in New Mexico?

Anyway I give this a 4 out of 10 for historical accuracy and an 8 for entertainment, so I met in the middle and gave it a 6. Fun to watch, but if you're looking for accuracy look for better documentaries.
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Like always, paint the facts how you want to, just make a good movie??
helloramon-2522628 July 2016
I really enjoy western history and so I was interested in watching the series. The "Hollywood" aspect made for moderate entertainment but the historical element leaves much to be desired. I think Redford should have paid more attention to what he put his name on before it was aired. I will watch the final episode of the series but I am not anticipating that it will change my opinion over all, maybe I will be wrong.

There are "qualified historians" who serve as narrators and as such makes me want to trust the actual documentation of the characters depicted. When I check the actual history of the events, why the discrepancy? Also some of the "special narrators" like John McCain and other celebrities leave me asking myself what do they know about the old west?? But then they were obviously invited by Mr. Redford, whom I doubt knows much more than film festivals at Sundance can offer.
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Worst show ever
jpschell15 July 2016
I like history... I started watching this back-to-back, only to find out that just about every scene is used at least 6 times. I could not keep on watching it so I gave up after 3.5 episodes. Too bad. Robert Redford should have either said no to being the executive producer, or have actually watched what the product was of his producing. This one has certainly not done him any favors. The actors that were brought in just because they've been in some western sometime, talking as if they'd know what those people thought and wanted? The Indian film maker, constantly speaking of 'we' when he talks about the native Americans... Was he there? Nah, didn't think so...
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Hollywood Hokum
grey-crow24 March 2018
Should be titled "The American West In Movies". I love both westerns and the real history of the west but the aim of this show seems to be to convince viewers that the entertainment turned out by Hollywood is historically accurate, anyone with a passing knowledge will know that it is not. Fails to present facts to the point of embarrassment, too afraid to show many of the "heroes" depicted as they really were rather than the romanticised ideal. A missed opportunity.
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A Solid Basic History Of American Expansionism In The Late 19th Century
atlasmb28 June 2016
"From the ashes of the Civil War", comes a period of rapid settlement of the American West. Much of the west was controlled by tribes of Indians, but it offered one solution to the festering resentment and conflicts that followed the war.

Also, there were some rebel soldiers who continued to fight against Northern supremacy and order. Jesse James and his gang began to terrorize and strike at Northern interests.

This is how "The American West"--an eight part series executive produced by Robert Redford--begins. With voice overs and reenactments, the show details the beginnings of what becomes a two-front war that General Grant wages from Washington.

The credentials of the historians who add their remarks are impressive. There certainly is a wealth of academic inquiry available to the makers of this show. Still, this is a true story that seems to be painted with a broad brush. And it does not answer some key questions about the motivations and actions of some of the actors in this vast drama.

It does, however, establish a basic framework that viewers can build upon with personal reading and further scholarship. As always, history is a complex matter, and the outline provided by this series leaves plenty of room for a more refined understanding.
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Entertaining at best
mdkbox-614322 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I was looking forward to seeing this series, but after the first three episodes, I think I will pass on the remainder. Being a student of western expansion history, and in particular the Little Bighorn battle (off and on for the past forty two years). Each June 25th usually refreshes my interest. And having read the narratives from participants in the battle in the past several years, all I can say is I was disappointed.

I will just say, I observed too many inaccuracies to take this series too seriously. From the rail road spike in backwards and improper tools used to on the railroad to inaccuracies in the equipment and tactics during the Little Bighorn segments. Even "image flops" making right handed tools appear left handed. Just too many "plot holes", in my opinion. Hopefully it will inspire folks to further research the parts they found interesting.
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Nonhistorical depiction of the American west
pipewrench_dale27 July 2016
Would not recommend anyone to take this series too seriously. The props are lower end. Using Colt Peacemakers before they were even invented. Jesse James flashing a Colt Dragoon, just after the civil war, with engravings from the Indian wars. General Custer carrying his Colt army holster backwards. Hats are plain awful and don't look anything like they did in the west. Worth noting is that all the props seem to be cheap Pakistani made reenactor gear. Everything from hat-cords to boots. This type of gear is generally considered not up to standard among reenactors. Due to its inaccurate construction and appearance.

Guns are mainly non-firing Spanish made Denix replicas.

Looking at the facts they present its also debatable. As an example the description of the Pinkerton raid on the James ranch is more or less completely wrong.

To summarize. A series with OK screen value but with very low historical accuracy.
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ENtertaining with good production values
clydeboyd10 July 2016
THe American West series is a entertaining look at various stories/myths of the American West. As you can imagine Hollywood takes some literary license with the facts but does present a compelling series of one hour shows. THe series does feature well known western historians such as Dr Paul Hutton as well as other familiar faces for commentary.

This is a good place to start exploring the fascinating history of the old west. Just don't take the contents of the shows for being gospel. After all, this is Hollywoods version of history.

The only real detraction in the series I found was the producers repeated insistence on having commentary by actors such as Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds and other actors who make their living memorizing lines written by others. Considering that most of these people barely have a high school education, let alone any expertise in American history, it is hard to believe that the producers seriously thought that these people, as well as politicians like John McCain, would add any significant insights or information to the series. Apparently the producers take the audience for being too stupid to recognize a washed up old actor as some type of subject matter expert because he starred in a movie about the West. Putting aside that only criticism The American West is an engaging look at one of the most exciting and historically important periods in American History. I recommend it.
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I am English and Know this is Historically Rubbish
jaysomerville-813342 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Oh Robert Redford why did you put your name to this. I had to laugh at the story of 'Crazy Horse' when the historian or unquestionable historically knowledgeable Hollywood Actor who played a cowboy in an equally terrible movie came on at the story of Crazy Horses death and said.

"I believe the most believable account came from the White, union soldier who stabbed Crazy Horse to death with his bayonette." I shouldn't have to explain why this comment is ridiculous when discussing any historical event. It may not be an exact quote but as we are all just making stuff up I am not going back to get an exact Quote.

The details left out of the historical accounts from the series and the way events are mixed up and put together in a way edited to tell a complete differing account of events is what will upset anyone who took half an hour to try and find the truest account of the stories that will have been told and reshaped thousands of times over the past years. It made Pat Garrett look better than a sneak killer who creeped into the dark room on a 19year old boy to murder him on his lovers brother word. It brought Earps brothers another day of life to only kill them off after the day in Tombstone instead of the night before it and made Jesse James look like a paranoid fool who forced men to fight with him not win their loyalty.

It leave out facts and rearranges events and times rather than fabricate them and it is fun to watch the productions, even though I saw the same bussiness man in Fort Sumner and Tombstone walking the same street with the same woman, in the same street that seemed to be in both towns at the same time. If you want historically accurate however, pre-pair to be drawing your six-shooter out to blow a hole in your TV by the end of the first episode I am afraid.
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Pompous, bombastic, stereotypical, uninspired: unwatchable.
Uneken20 August 2018
I started the first episode with enthusiasm and appetite for a high quality documentary backed by the esteemed Robert Redford. I got through the first half hour, with the sound turned way down in the end, not believing what I was witnessing. It was like those disaster "docudrama's" about aviation accidents and freak waves: repeated images, rubber stamp exaggerated dramatic commentary and a pompous, badly executed sound track. I could absolutely not stand another minute of it. I fed the cat instead.
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Take me back in time to a bloody and violent time in America's history!
blanbrn23 June 2016
I for one have always been a history buff and passionate about dates and times and learning about people and figures that have shaped and transformed the history of America, well when this series on "AMC" came about called "The American West" it was right up my viewing pleasure! The series tells a story with montage and clips and acted footage of the wilderness and frontier times of the 40 years after the civil war. Plus in between the story and segments comments are provided by history professors and well known actors from films of westerns. The series features the journey and stories of Jesse James, Crazy Horse, Billy the Kid, General Custer, and many others during this blood soaked time in American history. Overall this is a real treat for any history and film buff as executive producer Robert Redford has struck series gold with this treasure as it's one historical watch!
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compelling history 101
SnoopyStyle31 July 2016
This mini-series produced by Robert Redford puts together some of the most iconic figures and events in the old American West highlighted by Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, George Armstrong Custer, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull starting from the end of the Civil War to the Oklahoma land rush some 25 years later. It ends with a surprising final connection between Wyatt Earp and John Wayne. The recreations are compelling enough and expertly made for a TV production. The actors portraying the historical figures are relative unknowns. In fact, the series use a mix of historians and much more famous actors as talking heads to explain the significance of the events. As for its history educational value, this show cherry-picks the most compelling stories of the most compelling characters. It lays it out in order which gives the widely known stories their proper place in the chronological order. This helps to give them context and a surprisingly effective flow. It is able to paint a vast epic picture of a changing world.
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